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You don’t need to miss out on observing Advent just because you’re a special needs parent. Preparing for Christmas can seem overwhelming because on top of all the extra work you do as the parent of a child with disabilities you’ve now got to squeeze in all the shopping, decorating, and traveling that the holidays typically require, all while keeping your child, and yourself, healthy. Scaling back on the gift giving, holiday parties, and decorations can help you arrive at Christmas less frazzled, as well as by incorporating a low stress, Advent devotion. Let Advent be a time to recharge your family spiritually so that you can all enjoy the real joy of the season.
Accepting the Gift contributor Colleen Pressprich has created a wonderful new book with illustrator Amy Heyse that can help special needs families enjoy the Jesse Tree tradition this Advent without getting overwhelmed with crafting 24 individual ornaments or tracking down various books and printables. Her book, The Jesse Tree for Families contains all the full color ornaments you need, plus the readings for each day are included, with notes for parents and discussion questions. If you or your children want to cut out and hang up each ornament you can, or you can simply enjoy the illustrations in the book- no physical tree needed. Pressprich writes in her introduction;
For me, returning to the Jesse Tree each Advent is an opportunity to dig a little deeper into their stories and, as a result, my own. I have found that the better I know the members of the family of Jesus, flawed as they are, the more open I am to the possibility that God might be seeking to work within my own flawed life – which, of course, He is.
Additionally, the seven O Antiphons are included as part of this book’s Jesse Tree. While the Jesse tree tradition comes from Isaiah 11:1 (And there shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise up out of his root.), the O Antiphons are titles of the Messiah revealed in the Old Testament. Both have been used throughout the Church’s history in art and liturgy. All the history and explanations (for parents and children) are included in the book; no additional sources needed!
If you’ve wanted to start an Advent tradition with your family but were uncertain were to start or how to accommodate the unique needs of your child, consider starting with this simple Jesse Tree devotion. Read the entries while sitting next to an Advent wreath if you have one, or maybe just some battery powered candles. Invite your children to study the pictures and enjoy the story, or maybe they will want to move around and act out the readings-make the devotion your own! We often sing, or listen to a recording of ‘O Come, O Come Emmanual’ as it includes all the O Antiphons. If you make time to read this book as a family this Advent, your child will arrive at Christmas with a greater knowledge of Jesus’ family tree, or at the very least, happy memories of reading together – but maybe both!
My family has done a Jesse tree for years, but my younger sons’ fine motor skills made coloring in the ornaments frustrating for them; they wanted to help craft ornaments like their siblings but couldn’t. I wish we would’ve had access to this book years ago so we could’ve just jumped right in rather than spend weeks trying to prepare all the ornaments. If you wanted to make the ornaments last longer, you could laminate them or decoupage them onto wood slices, the second method might also be easier for children who love crafts but get frustrated with detailed work. Our Advent devotions are always a quiet time to wind down at the end of our day, and help put the focus on the true reason for the season. Pressprich shares;
Rituals are important to children because this soothing consistency helps them to internalize information more easily. When children do not have to wonder or worry about what comes next, theya re able to focus more deeply on content. My husband and I have found that establishing rituals has been crucial to helping faith stick with our kids.